Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Slow Dough by Chris Young

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Slow Dough
by Chris Young

ISBN-13: 9781848997370
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Nourish
Released: Sept. 13, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
The Real Bread Campaign has been running since 2008, encouraging people to get baking and raising awareness of the additives that exist in most shop-bought loaves. To get a truly wonderful bread, you can use a starter to do the work for you and it does wonders for the texture, flavours and aromas of the final bread.

In Slow Dough: Real Bread, learn secrets from the campaign's network of expert bakers to make a huge array of exciting slow-rise breads at home. Whether you want to make a Caraway Seed Rye Bread, a Fougasse Flatbread or an All-Butter Brioche, in these recipes you'll learn how to make different starters for different breads, as well as the fundamental processes (many of which you can just sit and wait for): fermenting, kneading, first proof, last rising, and baking.

My Review:
Slow Dough teaches how to make a variety of pre-ferment (2 stage), long ferment (1 stage), and sourdough breads. As in, most of the recipes leave the dough to ferment overnight. This book is intended for people who have some experience making their own bread or access to someone experienced who can help ("this is what the dough feels like when..."), though the author did include the information that a beginner needs to know.

He started by talking about the Real Bread Campaign, then he defined the terms and described the techniques and ingredients used in the recipes. He described bread-making equipment you might want, though only very basic equipment and minimal ingredients are needed to start out. He also included tips from various bakers, a troubleshooting section, and ways to use leftover crumbs and stale bread.

The recipes were from many different bakers. They covered basic loaves to fruit- or cheese-filled loaves, plus buns, sweet breads, shaped breads, and more. There were gluten-free breads and no-knead breads in addition to wheat breads and kneaded loaves. The author promoted the use of organic, whole grains, though many of the recipes used some white flour. The ingredient amounts were given by weight and volume in metric and USA systems. Overall, I'd recommend this as an informative book for people interested in baking these types of breads.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Easy. Whole. Vegan. by Melissa King

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Easy. Whole. Vegan.
by Melissa King

ISBN-13: 9781615193097
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: The Experiment
Released: Sept. 6, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Vegan, whole food recipes that will help families ditch processed meals by taking the hassle out of cooking! In Easy. Whole. Vegan., she shows how to break free of ready-made, processed foods without spending hours in the kitchen (and it isn't with takeout)! These 100 vegan and gluten-free recipes are organized by how they will help busy families save time (and tame the chaos): 30-Minutes or Less recipes, slow cooker recipes, make-ahead meals reheat well, foods for entertaining, plus sauces, dressings, juices, and smoothies.

My Review:
Easy. Whole. Vegan. is a cookbook for making vegan, whole food, gluten-free meals. The author started by discussing the foods that she uses. Most of these foods are commonly available, though sometimes expensive. She talked about vegan substitutes for animal products, like how to make nut-milks, non-dairy "cream," or egg substitutes. She also recommended kitchen equipment (like a slow cooker, food processor, high power blender, dehydrator, juicer, stand mixer, and spiralizer). You'll probably want to start with the equipment you'll use the most, though, as good quality version are going to be expensive.

The recipes are intended to be easy to put together and clean up after. Most of the recipes had only a few, simple steps and served 4-7 people. They included variations for those with nut allergies. Some of the recipes are meant to look or taste similar to familiar non-vegan dishes, like ice cream or mac and cheese. Despite the titles of some of the recipes, no animal products are used. She included information about how to best store the leftovers.

There were recipes for salads, soups, puddings, pancakes, muffins, bars, cookies, crackers, casseroles, salsa, jam, cream, juices, smoothies, and more. Some recipes were sweetened with fruits, while others used a good bit of maple syrup or coconut sugar. Overall, I found this cookbook helpful for cooking for vegan friends and finding new ideas for healthy dishes.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Story Genius by Lisa Cron

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Story Genius
by Lisa Cron

ISBN-13: 9781607748892
Trade Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Released: Aug. 9, 2016

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Blogging for Books.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Story Genius is a foolproof program that saves writers from penning hundreds of pages only to realize that something's not working and they have to start again. Informed by story consultant Lisa Cron's science-based insights into how story structure is built into the architecture of the brain, this guide shows writers how to plumb the nitty-gritty details of their raw idea to organically generate a story scene by scene. Once writers reach the end of Cron's program, they will have both a blueprint that works and plenty of compelling writing suitable for their finished novel--allowing them to write forward with confidence.

My Review:
Story Genius is a guide on how to create powerful, character-driven stories using the Story Genius writing system. If you expect a lot of brain science, you'll be disappointed. The author only referred to a couple of studies. Instead, she resorted to speculative stuff, saying, "Evolutionarily speaking, our brain is wired..." followed by a story about what advantage we might have gotten from telling stories.

She believes that all powerful stories are ultimately character-driven, so she has you start your story creation with the character rather than a plot. She takes you step-by-step through deciding what the story is about, what your main character desires, and the misbelief that prevents him/her from gaining that desire. From there, you come up with what happens scene by scene to force the character to re-evaluate that misbelief. She described each step, then she had a fiction author--who is coming up with her next story--write that step to demonstrate it.

This system will prevent your book from wandering around aimlessly, full of filler scenes. Overall, I think a person could successfully follow this Story Genius system. It seems best suited for literary writing. She didn't really show how it might be used in genre fiction, where some genres are expected to contain very specific plot elements (which runs counter to her purely character-driven system). However, she does give some good advice on how to come up with a strong story and this can be used in any case.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Healthy Herbs by Linda Woolven

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Healthy Herbs
by Linda Woolven

ISBN-13: 9781550413298
Trade Paperback: 245 pages
Publisher: Fitzhenry & Whiteside
Released: Sept. 26, 2006

Source: Bought as a used book.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Master herbalist Linda Woolven and Natural Path publisher Ted Snider have assembled a completely up-to-date guide to medicinal herbs that is comprehensive and immensely practical. Healthy Herbs brings a refreshing simplicity to an enormous body of medicinal herbal knowledge. The book identifies which herb is best for what condition while providing:

*Clear instruction on the safe and effective use of each herb
*Only herbs that are readily available in North America
*Up-to-date information on herbal science in straightforward, jargon-free language
*Authoritative home-use instruction
*Teas, tinctures, infusions, decoctions, pills, and liquids

My Review:
Healthy Herbs is a reference book for the use of medicinal herbs. Most of the herbs are easily available at health food stores, and the rest can be found online. The authors assume you're going to buy these herbs at a store, so they gear their information that way even if it's a plant that you can find growing wild.

The herbs are listed by name, so you can look them up or just read through the whole book like I did. For each herb, we're told the scientific research involving the herb--what it's good for and how to use it. This often matches the traditional uses for the herb. They included dosing information for taking the herb as a tea, extract, tincture, or pill and any safety information about using it with other medications or during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

I've repeatedly read how whole herbs have few to no side effects (unlike the "active ingredient only" drugs that are based on them), so I'm interested in using herbs medicinally. I found this book to be very helpful, informative, and interesting.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Lessons in Classical Painting by Juliette Aristides

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Lessons in Classical Painting
by Juliette Aristides

ISBN-13: 9781607747895
Hardback: 248 pages
Publisher: Watson-Guptil
Released: July 26th 2016

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Blogging for Books.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
With a direct, easy-to-follow approach, Juliette Aristides presents aspiring artists with the fundamental skills and tools needed to master painting in the atelier style.

With more than 25 years of experience in ateliers and as an art instructor, Aristides pairs personal examples and insights with theory, assignments and demonstrations for readers, discussions of technical issues, and inspirational quotes. After taking a bird's eye look at painting as a whole, Aristides breaks down painting into big picture topics like grisaille, temperature, and color, demonstrating how these key subjects can be applied by all painters.

My Review:
Lessons in Classical Painting contained foundational lessons for painting "in the atelier style." This isn't for absolute beginners since the author assumed you have done some painting and doesn't cover equipment basics. Rather, it's a series of lessons that build on each other to improve your painting.

The author talked about a topic then provided a lesson or two to help you learn and apply that principle. She'd tell you the goal of the lesson and how to choose a subject rather than assume you'll do the exact same painting that's in the demonstration. This allows you to practice the lesson more than once (if you wish) and to pick a topic you'll enjoy painting. I really appreciated this. This is the only painting book I've ever read where I decided to do every single lesson in the book.

The paintings used as illustrations ranged from the old masters to works by the author and many other current artists. Nearly every painting was a lesson in itself or illustrated a point in the text. The topics that she covered included really looking, basic shapes and the values that create an object, how to organize a scene, under-painting, monotone paintings, light as a way to reveal form and create a mood, working with a limited palette, color temperature, color theory, color mixing, and more. You can apply these lessons to any type of oil painting (still life, portraits, landscapes, etc.).

The author clearly defined her terms. She was easy to understand, and I felt no confusion when following her directions. I'm probably an advanced beginner, and I think her lessons have really helped to improve my painting. I'd recommend this book to oil painters who aim for some level of realism in their paintings.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Food Forensics by Mike Adams

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Food Forensics
by Mike Adams

ISBN-13: 9781940363288
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: BenBella Books
Released: July 26, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Award-winning investigative journalist and activist Mike Adams, the “Health Ranger,” is founder and editor of NaturalNews.com, the number one most visited natural health website in the world.

Adams and his team test the things we eat every day to expose the hidden truth about the contaminants in our foods. They have tested levels of lead, arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and additives in common foods, from cereals, soups, and other pre-packaged meals to fast food and medicinal herbs. Adams’s tests reveal the differences between organic and non-organic foods, GMO and non-GMO certified foods, and more.

Food Forensics discloses how food contamination happens and why it matters, and provides valuable information on how you can protect yourself.

My Review:
In Food Forensics, the author talks about his mission and his lab where he tests food for toxic contaminants. He described how toxic metals get into your food, what happens when you eat that food, and what will actually help rid your body of these toxins. He went into detail about dangerous metals (arsenic, mercury, cadmium, aluminum, copper, tin), chemical contaminants (BPA, BPS, hexane, pesticides), food ingredients (aspartame, MSG, artificial colors, and much more), and animal feed contamination.

He also described what foods help your body to detox from these dangers. He pointed out that this is a natural, everyday process and mentioned easy-to-find foods that help the process.

A large section of the book was a list of foods--including organic and superfoods--that he's tested in his lab and the levels of toxins they contained. Unfortunately, this was such a mess on my ebook review copy that I can't tell how useful it actually is. It looked like simple rows of numbers, though, so you'd need to do some interpreting of those numbers.

The author painted a very depressing view of things: every food seems to have some level of toxic load, it would take generations to reverse this if we started now, and there's no hope that this will change this anytime soon with big business more concerned with profits than long-term health.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Secret Language of Churches & Cathedrals by Richard Stemp

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The Secret Language of Churches & Cathedrals
by Richard Stemp

ISBN-13: 9781780289618
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Watkins Publishing
Released: July 19, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Who is depicted in that stained glass window? What is the significance of those geometric figures? Why are there fierce-looking beasts carved amidst all that beauty? Is there a deeper purpose behind the play of light and space in the nave? Why is there a pelican on the lectern and ornate foliage on the pillars? The largely illiterate medieval audience could read the symbols of churches and cathedrals and recognize the meanings and stories deliberately encoded into them.

Today, in an age less attuned to iconography, such places of worship are often seen merely as magnificent works of architecture. This book restores the lost spiritual meaning of these fine and fascinating buildings. It provides a three-part illustrated key by which modern visitors can understand the layout, fabric and decorative symbolism of Christian sacred structures.

Part One is an analysis of structural features, outside and in, from spires and domes to clerestories and brasses.

Part Two is a theme-by-theme guide, which identifies significant figures, scenes, stories, animals, flowers, and the use of numbers, letters and patterns in paintings, carvings and sculpture.

Part Three is a historical decoder, revealing the evolution of styles - from basilicas through Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic and beyond.

For all those who seek to know more about Christian art and architecture, this richly illustrated book will instruct and delight in equal measure.

My Review:
The Secret Language of Churches & Cathedrals provides a tour of these buildings, explaining the practical, historical, and symbolic reasons behind their features. The author looked at Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches.

The first part described what you see as you approach and enter the building and explained the architectural features found in a typical cathedral or church. The second part looked at the paintings and sculptures and identified various people and common symbols and scenes for those of us not "in the know." The third part looked at the elements found in the earliest churches and how they changed throughout history.

The book contained many full-color pictures from the outside and inside of churches to illustrate the points made in the text. For paintings, we're shown the overall ceiling, then detail shots with descriptions of what is being show in that section.

I once went on a study abroad tour were we visited many cathedrals. I felt like I was missing half of what I was seeing because I didn't know the intent behind it. I'd recommend this book to those planning on touring cathedrals or who are just interested in the topic.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.